Follow him on Twitter
It was all very gallant of Bernard Madoff to try to protect his wife from the US authorities bent on reducing her to penury, but the net is closing in.
Prosecutors say they want to seize more than $100m in homes, cars, boats, art and other assets held by the couple, including much which is in Ruth Madoff’s name alone. She has not been charged with any wrongdoing, although the FBI is looking at the extent of her involvement with the family firm.
The list of the couple’s assets was made public by the defence last week. Their four homes are worth about $22m, all but one of them in Mrs Madoff’s name alone. Their four boats add up to $9.3m. The penthouse apartment in Manhattan contains $104,000 of silverware and other items, including a $39,000 Steinway piano. Mrs Madoff’s jewellery is worth $2.6m.
Madoff, history’s biggest fraudster, was jailed last week after pleading guilty to running a $65m Ponzi scheme.
In court, he said that “to the best of my recollection”, his scam began in the early Nineties; the prosecution alleges it stretched back at least to the Eighties. It’s no trivial difference.
Assets transferred between the couple before the start of the fraud or purchased by Mrs Madoff using her own long-standing funds, would not be classified as ill-gotten gains. They might then be shielded from the authorities seeking to recoup cash for Madoff’s victims.
That is certainly the case with the Manhattan penthouse, purchased by Mrs Madoff in 1984 – before Bernard recalls being a fraud, but after the government thinks he was.
Mrs Madoff has not been seen in public since her husband’s arrest. One might imagine her rattling around the apartment, bejewelled, alone, playing the piano… But for how much longer?